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Category Archives: Covert Action

Open Society Justice Initiative Issues New Report on U.S. Drone Strikes in Yemen

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015 at 3:16 PM

The Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) has released a new report that documents civilian casualties caused by U.S. drone strikes in Yemen. According to the authors, the report, entitled Death By Drone, uses nine case studies to explore whether the Obama administration kept its promise that “there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured.” . . .
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The New York Times’s Latest Kill List Story

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Monday, April 13, 2015 at 8:35 AM

The New York Times this morning has a story on the internal debate within the administration over whether to capture or kill a U.S. citizen terrorism suspect now facing charges in federal court in New York: A Texas-born man suspected of being an operative for Al Qaeda stood before a federal judge in Brooklyn this month. Two years . . .
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FBI 9/11 Commission Releases Report

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015 at 2:38 PM

The FBI 9/11 Commission has released its congressionally mandated report on the “implementation of the recommendations related to the FBI that were proposed by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.” The report, principally authored by Edwin Meese, Tim Roemer, and Bruce Hoffman, issued three key findings: The FBI has made measurable . . .
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The Precise (and Narrow) Limits On U.S. Economic Espionage

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Monday, March 23, 2015 at 7:09 AM

This Intercept story on New Zealand’s surveillance of candidates for director general of the World Trade Organization sparked a related conversation yesterday on twitter about the exact scope of U.S. economic espionage.  There is a lot of confusion about this, I think.  Here is the U.S. position as I understand it, followed by a few . . .
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Live: CIA Director John Brennan Speaks at CFR

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Friday, March 13, 2015 at 12:49 PM

At 1:00 pm, CIA Director John Brennan will speak at the Council on Foreign Relations on the agency’s strategy for strengthening intelligence-gathering capabilities and how the agency will be restructured in order to accomplish those goals. You can watch the speech below:

New Abbottabad Documents Released in Trial of Abid Naseer

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Thursday, March 12, 2015 at 12:56 PM

In the trial of Abid Naseer, the U.S. Department of Justice released a trove of new files recovered from Osama bin Laden’s compound during the May 2011 raid by U.S. Navy Seals that ended in his death. Seventeen of the documents were released in 2012. Those previously released documents painted a picture of a bin . . .
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Hillary’s Email

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015 at 3:24 PM

By now, most readers will be familiar with the news reports that Hillary Clinton used a personal email account ([email protected]) for her official work while Secretary of State.  Most of the news has been about whether or not this action violated federal record-keeping requirements but few (Shane Harris being a notable exception) are asking the . . .
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Happening Now: DNI James Clapper Speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations

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Monday, March 2, 2015 at 12:55 PM

At the top of the hour, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, Jr. will discuss the state of the intelligence community, and outline the major challenges and successes experienced throughout the last year. You can watch the speech live below:

The U.S. Intelligence Community and Non-Neutral Principles

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Thursday, February 26, 2015 at 3:30 PM

Last week, Ben’s NSA Constitution Day speech emerged after a long “declassification” process.  One puzzle Ben grapples with in this speech is why reasonable, educated Americans have–and will continue to have–such a high level of discomfort with what the NSA and other intelligence agencies do. The types of activities NSA is asked to do and the secrecy . . .
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The Equation Group’s Sophisticated Hacking and Exploitation Tools

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015 at 12:31 PM

This week, Kaspersky Labs published detailed information on what it calls the Equation Group — almost certainly the NSA — and its abilities to embed spyware deep inside computers, gaining pretty much total control of those computers while maintaining persistence in the face of reboots, operating system reinstalls, and commercial anti-virus products. The details are . . .
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The Legal Basis for the Mughniyah Killing

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Saturday, January 31, 2015 at 1:30 PM

The Washington Post and Newsweek report that the CIA in 2008 worked with Israel’s Mossad to kill Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah’s operations chief, in Damascus, Syria.  The Post says that Mughniyah “had been implicated in the killing of hundreds of Americans, stretching back to the embassy bombing in Beirut [in 1983] that killed 63 people, including . . .
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Safe Havens Still Matter

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015 at 9:13 PM

Micah Zenko and Amelia M. Wolf, both with the Council on Foreign Relations, have a new piece in Foreign Policy which argues against the “myth” that safe havens allow terrorists a space in which to flourish. They claim that this myth has only led us fruitlessly abroad in search of monsters to destroy. It’s a stunning . . .
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Two Pieces of Spy News

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Monday, January 26, 2015 at 5:11 PM

(Another) Russian Spy Ring Busted in New York City Earlier today, the Department of Justice announced charges against a New York-based Russian spy ring. Although three defendants have been charged, only one, Evgeny Buryakov, aka “Zhenya,”  has been arrested.  According to the official complaint, Buryakov worked as an agent of the Russian foreign intelligence agency, . . .
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Reactions to NYT Story on North Korean Cyber Penetration

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Monday, January 19, 2015 at 9:45 AM

David Sanger and Martin Fackler write in the NYT that the NSA “drilled into the Chinese networks that connect North Korea to the outside world, picked through connections in Malaysia favored by North Korean hackers and penetrated directly into the North with the help of South Korea and other American allies,” and also placed malware . . .
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On the Tired War v. Law Enforcement Distinction

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Saturday, January 10, 2015 at 2:07 PM

I agree with much of what Wells says in response to Bryan Cunningham’s piece on War v. Crime, but thought I would add my two cents. It is not fair to say, as Bryan does, that the attacks in France were a “consequence” of a return to a “largely law enforcement approach to terrorism” by . . .
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Thoughts on the SSCI Report, Part II: The Program’s Brutality

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Friday, December 19, 2014 at 8:48 AM

I want to begin my review of the SSCI interrogation report and the responses from the CIA and the SSCI minority by addressing the area in which, in my view, the majority report is strongest: the allegation that the treatment of detainees was far more abusive, far less controlled, and far more brutal than the CIA . . .
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The SSCI Report and Its Critics: Torturing Efficacy

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 9:59 AM

Polarization surrounding the SSCI Report (see here for Lawfare’s coverage) has been most pronounced on the efficacy of enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs). The Report and its supporters have proclaimed that EITs never produce useful information. Unfortunately, that pat assertion undermines the possibility of a consensus on future interrogation tactics, including a consensus that rules out . . .
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Rules of Engagement for the War in Afghanistan in 2015

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014 at 10:44 AM

As reported in an article in the New York Times back on November 21, President Obama recently decided to expand the set of circumstances in which the U.S. military might use force in Afghanistan during 2015. What is the precise nature of that expansion, so far as we can tell from that story? Or put . . .
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More on Passport Revocation and Temporary Exclusion: The New Counter-Terrorism Bill in the U.K.

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Saturday, November 29, 2014 at 4:00 PM

The United Kingdom’s Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, HC Bill 127, had its first reading in the House of Commons on Wednesday, November 26. The Bill has been published at a time when the British Home Secretary has described “the threat we face right now is perhaps greater than it ever has been and we must have . . .
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The FBI Impersonates the Media: Some of the Rules Governing Cyber-Subterfuge

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Friday, November 7, 2014 at 2:54 PM

The developing story of the FBI’s impersonation of journalists is, in a way, really the story of Timberline high school in Washington State. In June of 2007 Timberline had received a series of bomb threats, prompting a week of evacuations. The FBI and local law enforcement traced the problem to an anonymous account on the . . .
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